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Its been some time since we posted but this is mainly due to the dodgy nature of the Italian wifi networks that we have had access to. We are finding it very difficult to load a website let alone upload a photo. anyway for some reason we have a good signal strength this evening so we will try to catch up.
When we left Austria we moved quickly from the Alpine scenery that we had been enjoying albeit with plenty of cloud and rain to the warm sunshine of the Italian Dolomites. The mountains are not quite so high but they are more spectacular and very distinctive and spikey. We did manage to upload one photo which should give you some impression. As the sky started to clear on our journey south we were gradually descending and driving through some of the most stunning scenery we have seen so far. We seemed to be descending for about 2 hours and as we got nearer to our destination, a place called Conegliano just a short distance from Venice, it got hotter and the mountains changed from being bare limestone to a vivid green as they were covered in trees and scrub. We love Italy in any event but Christine couldn't stop smiling as we began to near our destination and the temperatures were in the high 20s and not a cloud in the sky. We were in a hotel that night to break up the hard work of breaking camp and setting up on the same day, especially when we have had a longish drive. Conegliano is a small town with hardly any tourists we could see other than us. We arrived on Sunday evening so as most restaurants were closed after a gentle stroll and a nice apperativ in a bar in the main square we went to the only restaurant that was open for business. We need not have worried about the quality of the food it was excellent and we feasted on sea food in various forms.
The following day we set off to Venice and found a small campsite just near the main road and rail route across the lagoon. It boasts that it is the nearest campsite to Venice and it is very easy to take the bus in on a 5 minute bus ride. So for the last 2 days we have simply immersed ourselves in the atmosphere and beauty of the city. We have been before, about 15 years ago so we did not feel we had to visit all the key sites which we had seen already. Instead we spent out time drifting around soaking it all in. We did have an interesting challenge in that Andy sent us a photo of the bridge upon which he proposed to Sarah (what an old romantic he is!) and challenged us to find it. Andrew do you know how many bridges there are in Venice! Well I don't either but I think Christine has narrowed it down to one of about 200 possibilities!
When we came last time it was shortly after the fire that destroyed La Fenice, the famous opera house. We saw the site of devastation and much work underway to restore it. We therefore decided that one thing we should do is visit the theatre to see how they got on. We didn't go to a performance although it would have been marvellous if we could have managed that. Instead we went on the tour of the building with an audio guide. The work of restoration is amazing its all very ornate with gold leaf decoration but the internal effect is remarkable and you would not know it had been virtually destroyed by fire a few years ago. Fenice means phoenix and that is the symbol of the theatre which could not be more apt since the theatre has been destroyed by fire twice (once also in 1830sh) and each time has been reconstructed to rise from the ashes.
Well it's beginning to feel like our travels are entering the final phase. Since we left Venice all our stops will be moving closer to home. Our last big highlight is in a week's time when we will be spending 2 weeks in Montpellier where we have rented a gite. Duncan, Julia and baby Lauren are coming to spend a week with us at the gite which will be fantastic. Then as they leave, Lol and Kathy will be dropping in for a few days as well so we are really looking forward to that treat. Spending 2 weeks in the same place for a change of pace and some unwinding is something we could do with after almost 2 months on the road!
At present we are in Verona; we arrived here yesterday. Our original plan was to camp at a site in the grounds of an old castello overlooking the river and the historic centre of town. It sounded like a fantastic location but the information on the website was a bit limited. It turned out to be impossible for us to stay there. All of the site is in small terraced pitches on very steeply sloping ground and we could not see a space that would be suitable for our tent. I thing it would appeal most to backpackers with small 2 berth tents. Added to that the facilities seemed very basic - no electricity hook up - a single washing machine that was out of order and we have a big washing pile to deal with! Also the wash rooms looked a bit historic! There seemed to be no other campsites in the vicinity of Verona so we ended up in a hotel. This turned out to be an excellent outcome. Verona has a large Roman Amphitheatre called the Arena. It is virtually complete and is one of the largest roman amphitheatres that have survived. Every year the Arena is used for an opera festival that runs through July and August. The programme has about 5 or 6 different operas running on different days rotating through the period. As we were in the Tourism Information office booking a hotel we decided on the spur of the moment to go to that evening's performance of Aida. It was a bit of a rush to get booked in washed and changed and out again in time but there was a free bus from the hotel for the many opera goers who come here specially for this purpose and we were able to manage to catch this bus - just about!
What a spectacle it turned out to be. It was a warm balmy evening. The seats we had taken were simply on the stone steps of the arena, almost the cheapest available. Still we had a fantastic view and the acoustics were excellent. The performance did not start till 9.00pm and we had some difficulty keeping awake by the closing scenes at 1.00am! However the staging of the event was on an enormous scale. The cast must have contained about 150 to 200 performers and the use of lighting, torches, costumes and stage scenery in the huge space of the Arena was dramatic and unforgettable. The singing and music was also of course marvellous. The Arena apparently holds 20,000 and whilst it was not quite full the atmosphere was great.
Verona is also a great city to visit in its own right. We have had a lazy start this morning bearing in mind that we did not get to bed until 2.00am. However strolling around the city today we visited the famous balcony that was supposed to be the home of Juliet where Romeo climbed up to serenade her. The courtyard was full of people queuing up to have their photo taken with their hand over the right breast on the statue of Juliet. This is supposed to mean that they will have the good fortune to meet a new lover. Christine refused to let me stand in the queue! We also visited a beautiful church and walked along the river just taking in the view.
We know we are rather behind with posting photos - we have had a frustrating time with wifi connections here in Italy. We thought this would be solved at this hotel but when we arrived here the wifi link was down and a technician had been called to fix it.
love F and C
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Just a few pics from Venice which hopefully will get through eventually. I haven't included the many pictures of bridges that I took in my search to solve Andy's challenge.
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